Chester Mandrik, owner of Yard Spice Organics (www.yardspice.com) in Hudson, is pushing for legislation that would form a committee to study the use of pesticides, herbicides and alternatives, particularly where children play. The measure was recently before a state House of Representatives committee. Mandrik’s company specializes in organic lawn care and provides free lectures on fertilization and pest control.
Q: What are the key components of the measure?
I think personally the bill is pretty broad. I don’t necessarily like the way it’s written because it’s too broad … the bill more or less bans [chemical fertilizers and pesticides] where children congregate. That could be anywhere.... It could be the middle of the road, a bus stop. ... It should be public lands, child care centers and definitely parks and schools.
[Mandrik doesn’t think the bill will pass this session.]
It’s not a loss because it’s probably the first time we’ve had this awareness here in New Hampshire. The future is bright for us.
[Mandrik says there’s a place for non-organic chemicals, but organics should get priority.]
You use what you need. ... But go with the organic first. If something comes up that’s dangerous, then go to pesticides. ... I have customers who have never used any pesticides on their properties, they’ve found other controls. If … there’s a serious mosquito problem that I can’t control, I’m going to tell them to go find a chemical applicator. That’s what this whole thing is about.
Are you noticing people being more aware of issues with chemicals in fertilizers?
Yeah, they are. Money speaks, though ... Take Scott’s — why would they come out with an organic application if they didn’t know change was going to happen?
So it seems like whether the measure is approved or not, you’re pleased with the progress so far?
The progress is in the awareness.... The bill brought people out from Canada. [He said Massachusetts towns on the state border also sent letters of support to him.] The state finally got actual testimony, “I am sick and this is what made me sick.” One lady...she was actually living in New Hampshire and had to move out because she couldn’t take the pesticides. Now that’s an extreme case. Some people have an allergic reaction to chemicals. I grew up around big stores all the time. In the spring time, if I was near one, I’d go into a sneezing attack. I can’t be in there any more.
In your business, have you seen a rise in customers wanting organic products?
Oh yeah, absolutely. Couple things in favor of that. The economy, people are striving to make ends meet, they’re going back ... to their own backyard gardens. In conjunction with that, the issues with food lately, so people are starting to grow their own. So health and economics are bringing people back to putting gardens in their back yards. ... The economy is pushing the two topics together and making people think a little bit. People are starting to put gardens in the backyard but they don’t have the education to do it organically. That’s what they’re looking for. My classes, the free lectures, they’ve doubled in size in the last three years. I used to get 10 or 12 people; now it’s 25 to 30.
Are you seeing schools and municipalities go organic for their own fertilizers?
With the controversy, I had two school districts call asking about product information and wanting to make the change. It’s going to happen. It may not be today. We’re trying to get people into a program so they can start learning about organics.